The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)

Vincent Price stars in the final film in Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe series. MGM USA R1 DVD.

The Film

"And the will therein lieth, which dieth not.
Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor?
For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness.
an doth not yield himself to the angels, nor unto death utterly,
save only through the weakness of his feeble will."

Joseph Glanvill, quoted in Edgar Allan Poe - Ligeia

Riding with the hunt, Lady Rowena Trevanion discovers a ruined abbey and is terrified by the unexpected appearance of nobleman Verden Fell (Vincent Price). Fell, she discovers, is a man who has sought isolation, haunted by the memory of his dead wife. The pair fall in love and are married, enjoying a blissful honeymoon but as soon as they return to the abbey, Fell begins to act strangely again and Lady Rowena tries to discover what is possessing him...

The eighth and final of Corman's Poe cycle looks to one of the author's earlier stories, the short horror tale Ligeia. Writer Robert Towne (who wrote Corman's Last Woman on Earth (1960)) provides the script and as with the previous films in the series, he takes the basic themes and writes a new storyline around them - unfortunately the end result is certainly the least of the Corman/Poe cycle. For the first time the story focuses around a female leading character, Lady Rowena, but Towne makes the woman into what he presumably thought was a firey independent character, instead she just comes across as brash and irritating. The romance between Rowena and Verden Fell is almost comically short with the pair going from meeting to married in just a couple of scenes. Poe himself missed out the romance between the pair completely, but in a full length film in which this is a key component, its absence is very noticable and makes it hard to understand why the two are together.

The most noticable addition to the storyline is that of the black cat, which takes the pride of place in the film's promotional material. Completely absent from the original story, the cat serves no real purpose in the film and particularly in the film's climax it becomes almost spoof like (at one point its presence is indicated by the mysterious appearance of a saucer of milk). It is a pity that no reference is made in the film script to the main character's opiate addiction, something that forms a major component of the Poe story, particularly since Corman would make good use of hullucinatory sequences in his later film The Trip (1968) and their use here could have given the film a much needed boost, lacking as it does, the beautiful surreality of his previous Masque of the Red Death (1964). The climax is instead a long drawn-out affair that lacks any tension and never really makes sense - completely destroying the simple horror of the climax of Poe's tale.

Like Masque of the Red Death, The Tomb of Ligeia was filmed in England rather than on the oft re-used studio sets that had furnished the first six films. Corman makes a particular point of giving the film a very different appearance to the earlier works, in particular using exteriors while the previous films had been entirely studio-bound - this does help to add some variation and the use of the beautiful Castle Acre Priory is a lot more realistic than the matt painted castles of the earlier films - however this move does serve to diminsh the claustrophobic, nightmarish atmosphere of the earlier films and the amazing camera-work and use of filters and gels that underscored the horrors of Pit and the Pendulum (1961) in particular, is completely absent here.

Price was inevitable casting and as usual he gives a very strong performance. English actress Elizabeth Shepherd plays Lady Rowena and is almost unrecognisable as Ligeia - her performace is solid but she is sadly let down by the script which often makes her character unlikeable. A few familiar British cinema faces, including Carry On regular Derek Francis, appear throughout the production.

Despite the promising source material, The Tomb of Ligeia, is undoubtedly the weakest of Corman's eight Poe films. Despite a couple of effective scenes the script is generally poor, giving us an unlikeable lead character, an unconvincing romance and a disappointing ending, while the production tries to add variation but ends up unable to capture the nightmarish character of the earlier films. Of interest to fans of the series but not generally recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Vincent Price - an American horror icon also starred in The Haunted Palace (1963)
Directed by anyone interesting? Roger Corman - best known today as a producer he had a very varied career as a director, from low budget western Five Guns West (1955) to revolutionary counter-culture films The Trip (1967) and Wild Angels (1966)
Any gore or violence ? None.
Any sex or nudity? None.
Who is it for? The weakest in the series, of interest only to completists.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print quality is strong with good colours and detail.
The use of early scope lenses on this shoot means that the edges of the image are slightly distorted, a common feature in British lensed films of the era.
Audio English language original mono sound. Sounds fine.
Subtitles English, French and Spanish.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with Roger Corman - a solo track but with a lot of information about the making of the film and the reasons behind it.
  • Audio commentary with actress Elizabeth Shepherd being interviewed by David Del Valle, from an earlier laserdisc release, discussing her experiences on the film. A lot of information.
  • Original Theatrical trailer.
Availability Only available in a double-bill pack with the An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe DVD on a dual-sided disc. Part of the MGM Midnight Movies series.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? A British R2 release lacks the extra features but does include additional language tracks.
Cuts? None known. The print is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th February 2010.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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